Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps qualify for Pan Pacs 100m fly final

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Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps were the two fastest swimmers in the rainy 100m butterfly prelims at the Pan Pacific Championships, setting up a potential showdown Saturday.

Lochte won his heat in 51.55 seconds in Gold Coast, Australia. Phelps prevailed in a later heat in 51.57.

“It’s crazy with like the sideways rain,” Phelps, shivering and his neck wrapped in a towel, told reporters in Gold Coast. “It’s a little chilly out there, but we’re all under the same conditions.”

Phelps, the three-time reigning Olympic 100m fly champion, owns the fastest 100m fly time in the world this year of 51.17 seconds. Phelps swam that time in the prelims of the U.S. Championships two weeks ago, but he was out-touched by .01 in the final by Tom Shields.

Shields won his 100m fly heat at Pan Pacs in 52.00, failing to qualify for the top final because only two swimmers per nation can advance.

Phelps finished fourth in the 100m freestyle earlier in the meet. He and Lochte helped the U.S. to gold in the 4x200m free relay.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have Pan Pacs coverage Saturday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET and Sunday from 1-2:30.

Pan Pacs are not only the biggest meet for U.S. and Australian swimmers this year, but times from Pan Pacs and the U.S. Championships will also determine the U.S. team for the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

In other events, Katie Ledecky set the pace in the 400m free heats in 4:03.09, a Pan Pacs record. Ledecky already owns gold medals from the 200m free, 800m free and 4x200m free relay this week.

Missy Franklin qualified second into the final of the 200m backstroke, an event in which she holds the world record. Australian Belinda Hocking was .01 faster than her in the prelims.

Franklin is swimming through back problems after first suffering spasms Tuesday.

“It’s kind of at the point where it’s not going to get too much better when I’m racing three times a day,” Franklin told reporters in Gold Coast. “But we’ve got it under control. I’m convincing myself it’s great.”

Beijing Olympic champion Park Tae-hwan of South Korea led the men’s 400m free qualifiers, followed by American Connor Jaeger, the World bronze medalist.

Australian Olympic bronze medalist Alicia Coutts was the top qualifier into the women’s 100m butterfly finals. Americans Claire Donahue and Kendyl Stewart also made the top final.

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What to watch at Drake Relays, Penn Relays

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Olympic gold medalists ramp up their track and field seasons at the Penn Relays and Drake Relays, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold this weekend.

Athletes are working toward the U.S. Championships in June and the world championships in August.

First, the historic Penn Relays will air on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Friday (5:30-6:30 p.m. ET) and Saturday (12:30-3 p.m. ET).

USA vs. The World in men’s and women’s 4x100m, 4x400m and sprint medley relays will air live on Saturday from Franklin Field in Philadelphia. A full schedule is here.

The U.S. teams are led by Olympic relay champions English Gardner and Natasha Hastings. The full roster is here.

Rio Olympic rematches highlight the individual-event fields at the Drake Relays in Des Moines on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold from 3-5 p.m ET on Saturday. A full schedule is here.

Perhaps no field is deeper than the 100m hurdles. World-record holder Keni Harrison takes on Rio silver and bronze medalists Kristi Castlin and Nia Ali, plus 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson.

The 110m hurdles contingent is strong as well. It features the last two Olympic champions, Jamaican Omar McLeod and American Aries Merritt, plus 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Grenada’s Kirani James and American LaShawn Merritt, who earned silver and bronze in Rio, go head-to-head again in the 400m at Drake.

The men’s 1500m is headlined by Rio Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy and London Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano.

Rio bronze medalist Jenny Simpson races individually for the first time this year in the women’s 1500m.

That field also includes New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin, who gained fame of her own in Rio. Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino fell in an Olympic 5000m heat and helped each other make it to the finish line. Both were praised for their sportsmanship.

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IOC president unsure whether esports should be considered sport

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Esports are gaining momentum in the international sports movement, but they are not close to becoming an Olympic sport.

“We are not yet 100 percent clear whether esports is really sport, with regard to physical activity and what it needs to be considered sport,” IOC president Thomas Bach said Tuesday, according to insidethegames. “We do not see an organization or a structure that will give us confidence, or guarantee, that in this area the Olympic rules and values of sport are respected and in place, and that the implementation of these rules are monitored and secured.”

The first clear step (of many) to become an Olympic sport is for the IOC to recognize the sport’s international governing body.

Esports will be added as a medal sport to the Asian Games in 2022, and has been praised by LA 2024 Olympic bid chairman Casey Wasserman, but it is not yet IOC recognized.

“We are watching it, we see the differences, we see the lack of organisation,” Bach said, according to the report. “But we also see the high engagement of youth in esports. Therefore, we have to carefully consider how this could be consolidated.”

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